The Vatican newspaper is sporting a cleaner, more dynamic look, and it’s getting positive reviews.
L’Osservatore Romano’s new editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, promised changes when Pope Benedict appointed him last fall. The newspaper was badly in need of a makeover, and its circulation had fallen to life-support levels. The new layout features more photos, more color and less debris floating around the pages. (Some are reporting that color is appearing in the paper “for the first time ever,” which simply is not true.)
Not that L’Osservatore has turned into a tabloid. It’s still six columns wide, and unfolding it on a bus or train remains a challenge. The newspaper’s age is indicated in Roman numerals, and as always the masthead carries its mottos in Latin: “Unicuique suum” and “Non praevalebunt.”
How’s that again? The first, which means “To each his own,” refers to a principle of civil justice. The second, “They will not prevail,” comes from the Gospel and “they” refers to the powers of evil.
As for content, L’Osservatore readers have also noticed a change. There’s more international news, fewer evergreen pieces about the church and even some scoops.
Its pages also feature many more articles written by women — a specific request of Pope Benedict, according to Vian.
The newspaper continues the weird practice of dating each issue one day ahead. That used to lead Vatican officials to joke that with the Osservatore you could get “yesterday’s news tomorrow.”
But that’s no longer true. Just today, for example, L’Osservatore was the first Vatican news outlet to carry the pope’s reformulated text of the 1962 Missal’s Good Friday prayer for Jews. For the first time in memory, Vatican employees rushed out to buy the newspaper.
PHOTO: Two men read L’Osservatore Romano at a newspaper stand outside St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 2. (CNS/Reuters)